All The Lovers In The Night: Mieko Kawakami
Book Review: All The Lovers In The Night by Mieko Kawakami, translated by Sam Bett, David Boyd. To be published on 12 May 2022 in the UK by Picador. Purchase links below - including an affiliate link.
[Disclosure: Europa Editions provided me with a free advance copy of this book for the purposes of this review.]
Still waters run deep with this extraordinary, gripping and beautiful novel by the multi-talented Japanese author, Mieko Kawakami.
All The Lovers In The Night is set in modern day Tokyo and tells the story of free-lance proof reader, Fuyuko Irie. Almost any discussion of the story will result in spoilers and in this case, I really do think that any spoiler will ruin the experience of reading the story for you. I would even avoid reading (if you can) some of the excerpt reviews that will be printed on the front or back covers of the paperback edition – which include annoying hints – that prime you to anticipate events and disrupt the beautiful and quiet rhythm of the read.
The paperback edition. Pre-order links below.
What I will say is that the novel starts gently – it’s undemanding – it’s so easy to read it practically reads itself. Then somewhere along the way, you realise that you are reading an incredible, gripping and dramatic book, which you suddenly can’t put down.
The hard copy edition, to be released in May.
This book provides a window into the lives of people that anybody outside Japan would never normally read about or even meet – the ordinary working Japanese and the challenges they face trying to thrive (or perhaps just survive) within Japan’s rigid societal diktats.
Tokyo lights at night - a theme throughout All The Lovers In The Night. Photo credit: Jezebel Melgoza.
In my opinion, the most dramatic, interesting and thrilling Japanese novels to be translated into English are the ones that tell the story of those people who have fallen through the cracks – almost always through no fault of their own. This novel explores the cruelty and the kindness to be found in modern day Japan. It shows that even small acts of understanding and gentle empathy can help encourage a person toward the first steps to recovery.
Photo credit: Yuto Kudo
It also reminds us that the damage inflicted on some people may be so severe that their capacity to help themselves has also been damaged – an important lesson for us as the narrative of “being strong”, “hustling”, “helping yourself”, “being a fighter” seems to be taking over the self-help airwaves in the West.
Main character, Fuyuko Irie loves to walk through Tokyo at night. Photo credit: Jezael Melgoza.
All The Lovers In The Night is a thriller, disguised as a thoughtful literary novel, and answers all the questions it asks, not with coarse obviousness, but with deeply satisfying insights.
You can pre-order All the Lovers in the Night through the links below.
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If you enjoyed reading this review, and you're looking for other reading recommendations, you can find my other reviews here. You might also be interested in my mini-review of Out, by Japanese author Natsuo Kirino, which you can find in this blog post.